Posts Tagged ‘Shelburne Museum’


October 25, 2009
Shelburne Museum - Tiffany exhibt

Shelburne Museum - Tiffany exhibt

One of the most entertaining, insightful and concise assessments of the early music movement I’ve ever encountered is an essay by scholar/keyboardist/conductor Raymond Leppard.

Authenticity in Music (1988, Amadeus Press) considers the cyclical nature of cultural trends, and the many ways they’ve manifested at different times in recent history. The turn of the 20th century, much like the 1960s, was a time of renewed interest in traditional instruments like harpsichords, and handmade artisanship in everything from weaving and pottery to poetry and folk dancing. Leppard writes, “…the ‘knit-your-own-violin school achieved remarkable things and survived to take its place among the first of those who showed older values still valuable.”

Before the Arts and Crafts movement materialized, the Pre-Raphaelites and Art Nouveau artists around the start of the 20th century had already begun working in very much the same areas with a mission (art for the masses)  and practices (high quality work) furthered in the textiles and designs of William Morris, in print (see: Roycrofters), in paintings and poetry, and in the many unique artistic efforts of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Today was the final day for the Shelburne Museum’s Tiffany exhibit, with four large rooms of the Webb Gallery dedicated to the glass panels, jewelry, ceramics, and – of course – lamps, from the Tiffany Company.

I’ve seen Tiffany glasswork in pictures, but never in person. If you’ve seen some of these same photos of the lamps, the stained glass panels, and maybe even some of the vases or other Tiffany Co. ceramics – I can tell you there is no comparison with seeing them in person. Photos flatten out the layers and depth of color that distinguish the works and make them special.

How it changed my understanding of Tiffany’s artistry and gave me new appreciation for his complete understanding of glass as a versatile, artistic material to see one of the flat wall hanging’s multiple layers of colored glass lit up with a security guard’s flashlight. (Quite happy oblige, he said “that’s what I’m here for!”) Tiffany panelThe top layer was milky, the middle one opalescent, and only in the third (bottom) layer of glass did we get to the the earthy, mottled emerald glass that gave the whole piece its rich colored foundation. Only backlit did the three layers of colored glass fuse to form the iridescent, deeply wooded garden scene of the panel’s design.  Remarkable.

The exhibit’s accompanying video “Tiffany: Magic in Glass” (produced by the U. of Connecticut) surveyed the interesting back story, including Tiffany’s schooling at the National Acedemy of Design and his leaving the school over its emphasis on form and draftsmanship, over color and composition. Very telling. It is an oversight NOT to also mention Tiffany’s superb eye for form, though, realized in all of his works but none more than his jewelry. I’m thinking in particular of a brooch featuring an exquisite egg-shaped amethyst jewel nestled in an oval thicket of silver filigree, or the pear-shaped green tourmaline gem deeply glowing from the middle of its silver ring setting. Organic forms, all, unusual and perfectly crafted.

Raymond Leppard’s Authenticity in Music makes the case that the enduring values of older generations and cultures are as relevant as ever in today’s world. And, that it’s in the periodic societal re-acknowledgment of this truth that the early music revival and cultural movements like Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement can take root and flourish.

Whether it’s harpsichords, knitting, or stained glass lamps – there’s no question we’re a better world for that occasional rediscovery.

same as it ever was

June 2, 2009

"It's hard to imagine that nothing at all - could be so exciting, could be so much fun." - David Byrne, "Heaven"

"It's hard to imagine that nothing at all - could be so exciting, could be so much fun." - David Byrne, "Heaven"

I seem to remember hearing David Byrne for the first time early on during my first year at college. (1985, probably autumn.) I had left highschool with a taste for Coltrane and Bitches Brew,  King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, Mozart and Schoenberg.

My freshman roommate is the one who brought the more contemporary sounds of U2’s “War”, Dire Straits, OMD, and – the Talking Heads into our cozy 30’x50′ shared domicile. One turntable (hers – this is important), one set of speakers, no headphones. Definitely no iPod or portable individual listening equipment. So we shared music, often listening together while studying and, more often, eating pizza and avoiding studying. Not always loving each other’s choices but I think we both learned a little from that year together.

I could have lived without the Breakfast Club soundtrack. Fine a few times but much less endearing on a 3x daily basis, it turns out. (I note again: it was not my stereo.) REM was definitely not my thing, I found them to be so loud and un-nuanced. And Dire Straits – well, they were alright sometimes for lighter listening. I did love U2, and the Psychedelic Furs, and these were also two of my roommate’s favorites. Can’t say I ever would have picked that stuff up on my own. Her obsession with Floyd was just fine with me too, even when she inexplicably got stuck in a Meddle groove right around winter midterms.

But the Talking Heads: when I first heard Little Creatures, I knew we had really reached a different stratum of shared musical experience. The rhythms, the lyrics, the quirkiness of Byrne’s voice and phrasing: he was cool. And he was very much all his own artist.

He still is.

David and the energetic cadre of Byrne-ettes

David and the dancers

Tonight David Byrne opened his 17-stop US summer tour at The Green at Shelburne Museum. It’s a sizeable show, with four other musicians besides Byrne, three backup singers, and three dancers. The tour celebrates Byrne’s 30-year partnership with fellow innovator Brian Eno, and features a lot of music from their long history along with many from their latest collaboration Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. No “Jezebel Spirit” (I can’t get enough of that one, guess I’ll have to listen to the recording – again – ), but the set did include one other tune from their remarkable 1979 My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, when Byrne and Eno sampled and mixed before there WAS sampling and mixing being done like that.

The new music sounds fresh, Byrne’s voice is strong and flexible, and the few multi-instrument ensemble pieces they performed were outright magical. Also love the new  ‘do, straight up and platinum…even as I recall the line from Life During Wartime, “I’ve changed my hairstyle so many times now, don’t know what I look like…”

"Once in a Lifetime"

"Once in a Lifetime"

The dancing accompaniment to the music didn’t add much visual interest to the performance, unfortunately, at least not of the kind one hopes for. This impression is not based on the actual skills and energy of the dancers themselves, but rather from what appeared to be the distracting choreography they were strapped with. (I see that the tour employs three choreographers…hmm.) From tumbling around and crawling on the stage – in their dressy white outfits – to spinning around in office chairs and leapfrogging athletically over Byrne’s back – the scene kind of speaks for itself.  It’s a minor point to make, however, considering what an enjoyable show it was overall.

The  evening unfolded under a cool gray blanket of cloudcover, and while a starry sky might have topped off the experience to absolute perfection even without that I can really see why so many of my friends consider the Green one of their fave concert venues. The sound system is great, the setting is intimate but spacious enough for comfort (and for dancing!), and it’s beautiful. I’ll look forward to seeing many more shows there.

Here’s wishing Byrne & CO. a fun and successful tour (in the US through June, then on to Europe).

And thanks to Val, for that first introduction in our little dorm room with our (your) little turntable stereo so very many years ago.


[all pictures in this post by B. S. Dover]

the week, past and future

May 30, 2009
Rupa Marya (of 'Rupa & The Aprilfishes')

Rupa Marya (of 'Rupa & The Aprilfishes')

I’m listening to New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins right now sharing his favorite BBQ recipes, on The Splendid Table. His band’s called The BBQ Swingers, and he’s known for setting up a grill near the stage to encourage spontaneous acts of audience participation in charred food. No bottles and cans allowed in the park, but what about ribs & slaw? Sounds great to me!

Seems like there’s been a lot of music in the news recently:

  • This morning NPR recognized Benny Goodman’s 100th birthday anniversary – including some discussion with Anat Cohen, who’s transcribing many of Benny’s solos AND appearing at this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, later this week. (More on that in a minute).
  • NPR arts reporter and producer Felix Contreras shared an overview of today’s new Latin music scene, by way of three new releases: Luz del Ritmo, from Argentina’s Los Fabulosos Cadillacs; Coba Coba, from the Afro-Peruvian groovemasters Novalima; and the lead singer from Yerba Buena, CuCu Diamantes’ debut solo effort CuCu Land , singing in a Dominican-flavored vernacular she calls “urban tropical”
  • About a week ago Fresh Air reprised an interview with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, engineers of the distinct ‘Philly sound’ with classics like If You Don’t Know Me By Now
  • On The Story, Dick Gordon talked to Rupa Marya about the music that lives at the intersection of her two professions: as a singer/songwriter, and medical doctor
  • …and a couple of days ago I when woke up to BBC World Update I heard a really interesting story about a cellist and his ventures into experimental music. I wasn’t able to find more info about it at the BBC site. Too bad, I wanted to share the link here. Maybe you’ll have better luck – look for it in the BBC World Update on Thursday (5/28) morning.

Taking a look ahead, it’s going to be a really busy week with all of the music coming up around town. Monday promises my first experience on the Green at Shelburne Museum, with

Byrne's tour poster

Byrne's tour poster

David Byrne. The program description says “songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno”, and that probably means a generous dose of music from their new collaboration, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Is it too much to hope that we might also get the rare treat of hearing some things (“the Jezebel Spirit” – please? Please!?) from some of their earlier work together, like the landmark electro-adventure, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts?

On Thursday evening, after the opening reception for the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, I’ll be hurrying over to UVM to catch the debut concert with trumpeter Ray Vega and his new Jazz Ensemble.

And Friday, well, that’s the start of the blur of sounds and experiences that typically characterize the time during the annual Discover Jazz Festival. As much as I usually know what I’ll be seeing and doing during the Festival, there’s often just as much that happens unexpectedly. Some of the most memorable encounters in past festivals have been the ones that weren’t planned. Like last year’s spontaneous jam session on Church Street, which started with a couple of players and picked up momentum with more and more folks stopping by, onlookers stepping aside to make way for the multiplying empty cases and trunks that accumulated in a cluttered ring around the jam. They made some noise that day!

The planned parts this week include the double-bill with Esperanza Spalding and Anat Cohen on Friday night, lots of live music and bands on Church Street and in City Park; Big Joe Burrell Day; and Belizbeha & the Country Horns next Saturday.

Stay tuned, updates coming here through the week. And by all means leave a comment here if you’re inspired to mention your own experiences or thoughts about live music this summer.

We’re just getting started, you know.

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